Maybe I am getting old, but the more I see of see of the wedding market, the more I wonder what happened to training, doing your time, learning on the job, understanding your trade. The digital age has meant that it is possible to take pictures more easily and the thought of getting right in the camera seems to elude some of the new breed of machine gun owning photographers. One of my second shooter recently undertook a wedding on his own account and then complained that it takes far too long to process the images. He had managed to shoot 3000 images in 8 hours or an average of 6.25 per minute. No real time for thought or organising hence a large amount of very average pictures!
Wedding photography is an art, which requires skills to manage people as well as managing the light available, the venue and your time. All of these elements take time to learn and there needs to be some basic business sense behind the delivery as well, such as contracts, shoot lists, insurance, spare equipment and common sense. Time and time again we find that photography is the area that couples like to cut back on but it is the one thing that you will be left with – Think about it, what will you look back on?
So when you come to deciding what you want in your wedding photography why not ask some or all of the following questions for your wedding photographer:
1) Can you describe your photographic style?
Some interesting questions for your wedding photographer is to ask about their personal photographic style is probably the best way to start a conversation that will reveal what makes them tick. This is one of the things that makes photographers unique. It’s like a fingerprint – every style is different.
In short, their style should match your personality. The way the wedding images are shot should be a subtle reflection of the couple’s personality.
Ask a photographer about their influences. Which photographers and artists did they admire most when they were just starting out? If they give you some names, go home and look them up – you may end up being inspired too!
2) Do you work with an assistant?
Shooting a wedding is a lot of work for a photographer, so it is common for them to bring an assistant. It is also common for the assistant to shoot some of the pictures. You should ask the photographer if they plan to bring an assistant, and if so, ask what role that person will be playing.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for sample photographs from that person
3) How long have you been shooting weddings?
In most cases, you don’t want to hire a total rookie to shoot a wedding. You want someone with experience. During your questioning, be sure to ask questions that will cause the photographer to reveal their experience. How many weddings have they’ve shot in the past year? What camera gear are they using, and how long have they been using it? (You want someone who is very comfortable with their gear, and not experimenting with some strange new gadget during your big day.)
Some photographers may not have a ton of weddings under their belt, but they may be experienced photojournalists who have worked under the daily pressure of a newspaper. The point is – ask questions that will give you an accurate account of their experience shooting weddings and/or similar events.
4) Are you easy to get along with?
You can’t really ask this question directly, but you need to get the answer anyway. Unless you spend time with each other, in person, it will be difficult to figure this out. When interviewing the photographer, don’t limit your questions to just weddings and photography. Ask about their interests, try to get a feel for their sense of humour, and try to find some things that you have in common.
If you end up having a great time talking with the photographer, and you feel like this person would fit in well with your family and friends, then congrats – you will get along just fine.
5) What is your turn-around time?
It’s important to know how long it will take to get to see the pictures once the event is complete. The time will vary based on many factors (film will take longer than digital, and amount of retouching involved are a few) so ask a photographer to give you a time estimate based on what you’ve requested. An experienced photographer will be able to provide you with an estimated timeframe.
6) Can we arrange to do an engagement shoot first?
If you can set up an engagement shoot first, you are essentially giving the photographer a trial run before the big event. Assuming all goes well, you will both get to know each other better, become more comfortable with each other, and the results will likely show in your wedding images.
7) Are you comfortable with providing direction?
The bride and groom, and many of their guests, aren’t usually professional models, and may get uncomfortable in front of the camera. They may hold themselves in an awkward position, and the resulting images may look unflattering.
Among your questions for your wedding photographer may be to ask the photographer if they are willing to coach people into more flattering poses, and ask if they can show you some images where their direction played a large role.
8) Can you show me a complete, unedited wedding shoot?
This can make some photographers cringe, but it is a really great way to get an idea of how they work, and what you should expect after the day has come and gone. Keep in mind that photographers tend to take a lot of pictures, and then edit them down to only the best. Don’t freak out if you see some out of focus images, or many images of a particular moment.
By looking at a complete shoot, you can get a sense for how the photographer thinks and moves. And, while you’re at it – another questions for your wedding photographer if you will have the opportunity to see the full shoot from your own wedding.
9) Are you familiar with my type of wedding ceremony?
Not all wedding ceremonies are the same. In fact, it is common for the bride and groom to customize the events of their ceremony to match their individual personalities or interests. Describe the ceremony to the photographer, and then ask them if they have ever shot a wedding with a similar structure.
10) How are your people management skills?
While the bride and groom are busy exchanging vows, stuffing cake in each other’s mouths, or trying to talk to as many guests as possible, the photographer is usually off on their own trying to navigate a sea of friends and family members they’ve never met. For this reason, it is important that the photographer be able to manage people in a friendly, effective way.
Ask a photographer to describe any particular wedding photography challenges they may have encountered in the past where their people management skills played a positive role.
Hope this helps you in making your decision but if nothing else work with someone who belongs to a trade body such as the Guild of Photographers and they have some qualifications you will see it in the results.
Master Craftsman of the Guild of Photographers